P & O Aurora by Gary Bembridge British Isles & Ireland August 27, 2004
This was the first proper cruise that my partner and I have done. We did it as a trial as we have booked on the QE2 transatlantic crossing in Dec 04 and wanted to check a bit of a cruise while we waited.
This was a great experience. It was a 4 day/ 3 night "taster" on the Aurora that I assume is to try and get people like us to give cruising a try. Although, we only ever met people that were experienced cruisers who were using the short trip as a "top-up" to get their cruise fix before longer cruises!
The 3 nights involved going from Southampton - Zeebrugge - Guersney - Southampton. We had booked into a mini-suite.
The following are some observations and thoughts:
Check-in/ embarkation: amazing The check in was so smooth and easy to do. More used to airline travel we were amazed at how efficient and organized it was. We barely stood in line. Once into the waiting area (which is neat and tidy but not very exciting) we felt that they could offer more for passengers to do. We had an priority boarding as we were in a mini-suite. We were taken to ANDERSONS bar and given a drink and sandwiches.
Cabin We were very very impressed. It is around 350 sq feet. With a massive king size bed (I belive made from 2 singles), bathroom with Jacuzzi bath and 2 basins, lounge area with clever set up where a dining room table is inserted into a desk area. The balcony comfortably held 2 chairs and a lounger. There were chocolates, flowers and champagne to greet us.
Dining We had second sitting in the ALEXANDRIA. It looked good. The service was so good it was almost invisible that you barely even realized it was all happening. Drinks were reasonably priced, and the food was varied and delicious. We had been put with a good set of people, 2 single travellers and a couple. All were regular cruisers and so we spent many happy hours chatting and getting their advice.
We had breakfast and lunch in the MEDINA each day as that had a served breakfast and lunch, preferring that to the ORANGERY which had a buffet. Service here was more patchy. Maybe as they knew that we would not be influencing their tips.
The formal tea was also in that restaurant. That was very good indeed with a lovely selection of pastries, cakes, sandwiches etc
Entertainment etc - We used the gym twice. It is well equipped and bright. It would be good if they had TVs or better music as the gym instructor played techno dance music all the time which was not ideal! - The spa was good, and we both had excellent and (compared to UK land prices) very reasonably priced back, neck and shoulder massage. - The shows put on by the theatre company (young dancer/ singers) were good. They have huge energy, and while clearly they had a good singing and dancing coach/ director they probably need some help on the staging and "book" as that was a bit amateur. But they were very enjoyable. - The casino was small and very smoke filled. - Tours on offer were varied and well organized.
Overall We thought the ship was great. It was very clean and well maintained -and you never saw anyone doing it so like the restaurant service it is done quietly and so as you don't notice it.
The shops were terrible - and we felt a real missed opportunity as even though we wanted to spend money all they had was fragrance, some clothes if you had forgotten something and a bit of watches, chains etc. It is a large and beautiful ship and looks great too!